This piece is part of the series, Rise of China Tech: Engagement by Intrusion.
Canada banning Chinese companies—Huawei and ZTE—from its 5G telecommunications networks comes a little late, but is in the right direction as far as the privacy of its citizens and security of communications go. In a 19 May 2022 policy statement, the Justin Trudeau administration made its intentions clear: “The Government of Canada is announcing today that it intends to prohibit Canadian telecommunications service providers from deploying Huawei and ZTE products and services in their 5G networks.” Further, by 28 June 2024 and 31 December 2027, existing 5G and 4G equipment from Huawei and ZTE respectively, must be terminated; and by 1 September 2022, telecommunications service providers will cease procurement of new 4G or 5G equipment. The reason is clear: “The Government of Canada has serious concerns about suppliers such as Huawei and ZTE who could be compelled to comply with extrajudicial directions from foreign governments in ways that would conflict with Canadian laws or would be detrimental to Canadian interests.”
These ‘extrajudicial directions’ are four Articles (7, 9, 12, and 14) in China’s June 2017 National Intelligence Law, under which there are incentives to Chinese individuals and organisations that make contributions to collecting, seeking ‘assistance,’ and making relationships that help gather intelligence. This is rampant, the January 2019 arrest of a Huawei employee for spying in Poland, for instance. It is clear, therefore, that no Chinese company should be allowed entry into any country’s critical infrastructure, as this December 2019 paper argues. The security risk Chinese companies bring has ensured that one country after another keeps them out of their 5G rollouts. For instance, Australia in August 2018, the United States (effectively) in May 2019, the United Kingdom in July 2020, Sweden, Italy, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, and Czech Republic (effectively) in October 2020, and India (effectively) in May 2021.
The Government of Canada has serious concerns about suppliers such as Huawei and ZTE who could be compelled to comply with extrajudicial directions from foreign governments in ways that would conflict with Canadian laws or would be detrimental to Canadian interests.
Further, as part of Atmanirbhar Bharat, and accelerated by the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict that has shown how it is every nation for itself, New Delhi has successfully tested the Made in India 5G developed at a test bed in IIT Madras. It will first be deployed on the state-owned BSNL, following which it will be offered to private operators, and perhaps, to the rest of the world thereafter. Likewise, South Korea’s Samsung hopes to deliver early commercialisation of 6G by 2028 and massive commercialisation by 2030. Overnight, the edge that Huawei had, as the leader in providing cutting edge 5G equipment at the cheapest prices, has been blunted. This has ironically been driven by a needlessly ruthless and excessively aggressive Xi Jinping—the Chairman of Everything in China—believing his own larger than life narrative. The result: Geoeconomic ricochets of rejection that prevent intrusions by Chinese companies in critical infrastructure of democracies. And these will continue.
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Gautam Chikermane is a Vice President at ORF. His areas of research are economics, politics and foreign policy. A Jefferson Fellow (Fall 2001) at the East-West ...Read More +